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Pennsylvania’s newest addition to their exploding gambling market is the addition of video gaming terminals, otherwise known as VGTs. The terminals can only be set up at truck stop gas stations that meet certain requirements established by the Pennsylvania Gaming Board.
These cash-only machines have grabbed the attention of the Pennsylvania bettor and given an enjoyable respite to truck drivers who spend upwards of 12 hours each day on the road.
One of the biggest differences with VGTs over your traditional slot machine is that they are regulated to take a maximum bet of $5 with a maximum payout of $1000. The machines are for adults 21 and over and are automated to the point where the truck stop just needs a camera system to monitor players.
Looking much like your traditional slot machine, video gaming terminals are only allowed at diesel truck stops throughout Pennsylvania. Although the terminals you will find in one of these truck stops are very similar to the slots you would find in Las Vegas, the minimum payout of the machines is 85%, compared to the 75% threshold in Nevada.
The state legislature has attempted to squash the VGT black market in Pennsylvania by legalizing the machines in diesel truck stops. Estimates by some gaming experts believe that the state has close to 40,000 illegal VGT machines working throughout Pennsylvania.
For a truck stop to offer VGTs to their customers, they must meet several criteria to become licensed. The truck stop must offer diesel islands for truck drivers to use as well as sell 50,000 gallons of diesel every month over the last calendar year.
The truck stop must also have at least 20 parking spots for commercial vehicles and house a convenience store on the property to be eligible. And after meeting the first four standards, the business must already be an agent of the state that legally sells lottery tickets and be on a lot that is no smaller than three acres.
For truck stops that reside in counties where one of the state’s 12 casinos call home, the counties could prevent them from offering VGTs to customers. All 12 counties protected their casinos by saying no to VGTs at alternative locations.
At the conclusion of 2019, Pennsylvania’s VGT market had grown to 20 locations with each truck stop housing five machines per location for a total of 100 VGT machines statewide.
That total number pales in comparison to the state of Illinois, who have wholeheartedly embraced the VGT revolution with over 27,000 terminals installed in any licensed business that serves alcohol.
The VGTs have been a huge revenue boost to the Illinois state government, bringing in $296 million in 2019 for public programs and creating a dependable stream of income that the legislation can rely upon in the coming years.
For Pennsylvania, the blueprint established by Illinois is the model to follow but the state has a long way before reaching the generated revenue from VGT machines. Over the first four months in Pennsylvania, VGTs brought in just over $1.2 million in revenue for the state.
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